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Water, sanitation and drainage

In urban areas, where there are large sections of the population that live in informal settlements or in poor quality housing, people do not have access to clean water and sanitation. Municipal authorities are unable to provide water and sanitation services to all and many access these informally and/or illegally. The lack of the basic services results in malnutrition and poor health, loss of life and livelihoods, and has devastating consequences on public health and environment. In this area of work, we seek to create information and knowledge about the inequalities of availability, access and quality of water and sanitation services, and the state of infrastructure. We work with communities and governments to draw attention to the problem, improve the delivery, and to make planning and practices pro poor.


Public sanitation

Large sections of the population do not have private sanitation facilities and rely on public toilets built by municipal authorities. However, these are inadequate, lack bathing and washing facilities, and often poorly maintained, with many missing doors, lights and drainage. These are also not located taking into consideration the need for sanitation for by low income groups and areas which experience high volumes of transient populations, such as near transit stops, markets and institutions. As a result, there is rampant open defecation. There are dangers to safety of vulnerable groups, such as women and children who are compelled to use poorly lit open spaces, and children who squat at open drains adjoining busy roads. We conduct research on economic, social and spatial data, management models and public procurement, to inform urban planning practices and work closely with local authorities to make public sanitation services more pro poor and comprehensive.

Water and drainage

The expansion of municipal infrastructure for water and drainage has not kept pace with the rapid urbanisation that most cities are experiencing. The sewage infrastructure is often poorly maintained and not upgraded often enough, resulting in water stagnation and flooding. People and institutions also illegally connect to the water mains to access water and sewage lines to dispose their waste. Sewerage lines have been observed to intersect with storm water drains, resulting in untreated sewage being carried to the waterways, which in turn results in public health and environment hazards. Unfortunately, authorities have been observed to take piecemeal actions that target low income groups residing on the banks of waterways. We advocate for pro poor development practices and create research that supports such interventions. We study policies and governance structures that underlie the management of essential water services and the ways in which they exacerbate unequal access, to inform planning practices.


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Case Studies of Community Managed Toilets in Urban Areas

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Tamil Nadu Sustainable Urban Developement Project (TNSUDP)

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Citizens' Report on the Chennai floods of December 2015

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